Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

Visit Douglas Farah's
author page at

Press Releases

The Afghanistan Question and Force Restructuring
The Toronto Globe and Mail has an interesting look at how increasingly complex the Taliban's attacks in Afghanistan are, belying the notion that the group is somehow in retreat there.

This is, of course, due in no small measure, to the Taliban's enormous revenue stream from opium and heroin, a pipeline that insures the groups is not only well armed, but able to expand its arsenal, training and capabilities. It is also due, in part, to the Afghan government's dismal performance in corruption and development, giving people little reason NOT to side with the rebel forces.

At the same time, the Obama administration is carefully considering how to define victory in Afghanistan in a way that will make it more attainable.

"One of the concepts we embraced in Iraq was recognition that you can't kill or capture your way out of a complex, industrial-strength insurgency," Petraeus said in an interview this month with Foreign Policy magazine. "The challenge in Afghanistan, as it was in Iraq, is to figure out how to reduce substantially the numbers of those who have to be killed or captured."

This debate is closely tied to the debate over the future of the military as we know-that is, what kind of military do we need to fight the wars of the future?

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting column by Mackubin Thomas Owens looking at this question. While the answer he gives is the most obvious-one equipped to fight several different kinds of war, both conventional and and small wars and insurgencies-he does remind us of some of the basic questions that need to be asked by advocates of the different camps.

As he points out, the idea that our technological advantages will allow us to fight wars remotely and at low human cost, has been largely discredited by Iraq and Afghanistan.

Clearly, small, irregular wars do have a direct security importance to the United States (every major terrorist attack by Islamists-the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, the 2000 Cole attack, and 9/11) were carried out by non-state actors operating out of stateless areas or failed states.

Yet, as Owens notes, others "fear that the Long War school's focus on small wars and insurgencies will transform the Army into a constabulary force, whose enhanced capability for conducting stability operations and nation-building would be purchased at a high cost: the ability to conduct large-scale conventional war."

The Obama administration will have to grapple with this balance, and Afghanistan will be a key forging ground that will have repercussions far into the future.

How deeply do U.S. forces get involved in counter-drug operations, given that the fund directly fund the enemy? How much responsible is the military for development projects and other non-traditional roles, when carrying them out will weaken the Taliban? Or do such activities lessen the military's ability to carry out its core mission?

The Cold War has been over for almost two decades. We have had time to see the results of myriad conflicts, both conventional (Iraq I) and non-conventional. The world is what it is, not what we wish or imagine it is.

Our future rides on getting this right, and we have had time to learn. The threats are multi-faceted. The turns Russia has taken clearly show that state actors can increase their threat posture. But Afghanistan and Iraq show how important the asymmetrical threat remains. It can never be an either-or proposition.
The Importance of the FBI's CAIR Cut Off
Worth Reading: A Report on Drug Trafficking and Gangs That Terrifies
Maintained by Winter Tree Media, LLC